According to dairy nutritionists, cash flow is the main hand brake on hay purchases this season.
The accumulated impact of the previous dry springs of 2014 and 2015, together with the fall in milk prices last year, is taking dairy farmers many months to recover.
Dairy farms are approaching the April/May period, when there is normally a feed gap requiring a higher level of fodder and grain supplements.
Spring calving cows are also starting to dry off and these normally require a low energy, high-fibre feed.
Cereal growers with hay to sell are hoping that they can access as much of this potential demand as possible given their sheds are full and many bales are stacked outside without cover.
There are several factors conspiring against hay sellers this autumn.
Dairy farms throughout the Western District are flush with home-grown hay and silage, with many farms harvesting two to three times their normal volumes.
As many have out blocks, where they have paid contractors to bale pasture hay, they will want to use the hay they have already invested in rather than buying in additional stocks to feed their dry cows.
Demand for lactating dairy cows is also soft this season.
Grain prices are low and while there is a constant need for fibre in a rumen diet, grain offers a much cheaper source of energy.
At current prices, oaten hay with 7 ME units of energy provides energy at a 25 per cent premium to the underlying energy cost provided by feeding wheat.
Demand for hay and other feeds is restricted by the lower dairy cow numbers, especially in the Western District.
Varying estimates put cow numbers between 10 and 20 per cent lower than two years ago.
The culling of cows began 18 months ago when chopper prices were strong and were extended further last year when milk prices fell.
Also, the continuing warm weather combined with recent 25-50mm of rain across most dairying areas of Victoria has been a boon for summer crops such as forage sorghum, corn and brassica crops near Koroit.
The market of 2017 has been particularly poor for sellers of vetch hay.
This protein source is suffering a lower reputation this season due to concerns over mould levels and poor palatability leading to lower milk production.
Vetch hay is normally $70 to $90 a tonne higher than cereal hay but this season sellers have been offering it for sale at the reduced premiums of $40 to $50 a tonne.
The recent rains will encourage dry land producers to sow annual pastures but a convincing autumn break is yet provide livestock producers the comfort they need.